Tuesday, March 3, 2020

One word. And yet.

Fifth grade was already off to a rocky start. The triplets' elementary school had a second floor for 5th-8th graders. Benjamin and Mason had to take an elevator and although we had been discussing it for more than a year, there was no plan in place in case of a fire. I didn't know I could fret over a set of stairs so much.

Regardless, the year had begun and the triplets were getting in the swing of things. The boys knew how to navigate the elevator and navigated the halls with the confidence of 10-year-olds with a circle of friends.

It was with this confidence that Mason would exit the elevator one day as two older boys were coming down the hall. I am just going to tell you that never have 8th graders seemed more adult than when your child enters 5th grade and middle school! Oh my.

These two seemingly grown men (by comparison!) were shoving each other back and forth when Mason walked off the elevator. One shoved the other right into Mason causing him to lose his balance -- not a hard thing to do admittedly -- and fall down. These boys didn't pause to help Mason. Rather, they kept shoving,  yelling loudly "Look what you made me do. You made me knock the little retard down."

I doubt those young men (Now actual men) would recognize themselves if they read this blog. No doubt they moved on and continued their macho match. But for my son -- and for me -- the incident is seared into our memory forever.

Mason was wounded. The story tumbling out of his mouth as soon as he got in the car. In one swift, thoughtless moment, those two boys had ripped to shreds the innocence as well as the confidence of my 10-year-old.

I was heart-broken.

I was furious.

I wanted to hunt down not only the boys but their parents.

It has in fact taken me hours to write this post, I am so overcome with the emotion of this memory.

Oh I know sticks and stones, etc. But words do hurt. Words have the power to wreak havoc. And they did. And they do.

One word and I realized the world would not always see my boys as the amazing over-comers they are. One word and I realized that the world would sometimes see the crutches, the wheelchair, and deem them unworthy of a glance, a care. One word and I realized my cute adorable children would not always bring out the best in people.

I watched as that one word -- and the disdain with which it was spoken -- caused Mason to stumble. One word and the kid who thought he could accomplish anything began to doubt himself. One word and he questioned his abilities. One word and he felt like a failure. Still.

Tomorrow is Spread the Word to End the Word Awareness Day. There is no place for the word retard or retarded in today's vocabulary.  No place.  A word used to divide, it is derogative and leaves people feeling less than human. Can we commit to getting rid of this word? Can we commit to teaching our children the harmful effects of words that divide us and hurt others?

It is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month -- let's make people aware that we have more in common than our differences. And let's commit to only use language that reflects that!

Carol - The Blessings Counter